Management of Angora Goats
If keeping angora goats appeals to you, and you are wondering what is involved, the following general pointers may be helpful.
Angora goats are beneficial for pasture management when grazed in rotation with, or alongside, cattle or horses as they will preferentially graze docks, thistles, nettles and other ‘weeds’. Over a period of time they will improve the quality of the pasture. However, they are by nature browsers so will feast on unprotected hedges and de-bark young trees.
As with any livestock, stocking rates for Angoras varies depending on the quality of grazing available and the availability of hay and straw as needed. It must be stressed that in addition to rotating the grazing to avoid build up of worms etc, there will on occasion be a need to separate goats into groups, eg when introducing a buck to does, during kidding, and after weaning the kids.
Land and Fencing
Although they have adapted well to a grazing lifestyle, goats are naturally browsers. Scrubby pasture land that contains a variety of grasses, deep-rooted weeds like dock and shrubby plants is better than a mono-culture of ryegrass.
Secure fencing is essential; most types of stock fencing will suffice, provided it is sturdy and in good condition, but be aware that goats will stand on it to reach any browsing immediately behind it. A framework of post-and-rails is ideal, with some kind of wire fencing attached. Sturdy stock netting will suffice, with the smaller-mesh section in the lower half. As an extra precaution you may want to consider the use of electric fencing. Electric netting must not be used.
Unlike sheep, angora goats do not have an insulating layer of fat just below the skin, and can suffer from cold winds. Mohair does not contain lanolin as sheep’s wool does, so angora goats are not as waterproof as sheep. Angoras therefore need access to shelter all year round. At times of particular need such as kidding, post-shearing and in adverse weather conditions, it has proved beneficial for the housing to be easily accessible, preferably with an electricity supply for hand washing, heat lamps and water heating. In the summer months a simple field shelter is often sufficient – in fact, in good weather in the south of England natural shelter may be all that is required.
Goats do not like getting their feet wet and muddy ground increases the risk of disorders such as foot-rot. In winter, hard standing such as a concrete yard and housing the animals at night or in bad weather will help to protect their feet.
Goats need a high-fibre diet – good pasture in summer, and access to hay and straw all year round, especially kids. Both fresh and preserved forage should be rich in species other than grass to provide a full range of minerals and vitamins. Supplementary feeding with concentrates in winter is also required, particularly for young stock and breeding animals. The wider the variety of feedstuffs you can provide, the more likely the animals are to thrive.
Fresh, clean water should be available at all times, plus both plain and mineralised salt licks.
The angora’s fleece grows at the rate of about 2cm per month. Shearing is carried out twice a year, when the mohair is about 12-15cm long. The exact timing depends on whether the animal is destined for the show-ring, and on any breeding programme. It is essential to provide adequate shelter and extra food at shearing time, especially in inclement weather.
Angoras are naturally seasonal breeders. The buck is introduced to the doe in autumn, and after a gestation period of 150 days, the kids are produced the following spring.
Young does (2-year-olds) kidding for the first time tend to produce single kids, but subsequently twins are more likely.
Angora goats produce only enough milk to suckle their offspring. The kids may be weaned at about 3-4 months or left until they are naturally rebuffed by their mothers.
Routine Health Care
Feet need trimming every 6-8 weeks and should be kept as clean and dry as possible to avoid foot-rot.
Clostridial diseases are largely preventable by a carefully timed programme of vaccination.
Worming is complex subject, depending largely on grazing management and time of year. Monitoring worm burdens by means of faecal egg counts (FECs) is a valuable tool. There are several medicines available for goats (through your vet), but dose rates are higher than for sheep. It is advisable to work out a strategy for your goats with your vet.
Coccidiosis can be a problem in kids, but diagnosis can easily be made using FECs and treatment is usually straightforward.
Lice are external parasites that commonly affect angora goats – they can be a stubborn nuisance to eradicate but there are several effective forms of treatment available.
Mites, especially on the lower legs, can cause discomfort but can usually be readily treated.
Some commercial aspects
British goats have been bred to produce fine, lustrous fleeces which can be spun by either hand or machine to produce a soft, hard-wearing yarn that can then be knitted or woven into a wide range of products. Many angora keepers have developed successful businesses and there is a market for small amounts of good quality fleece for hand spinning.
BMM co-ordinates the collection of its members’ raw mohair, and the grading and sale to processors.
Surplus male kids may be wethered and kept for several years as their fleece tends to be much finer than that of entire males. When culled, their skins may be cured to make beautiful silky rugs. The meat may be marketed or used for home consumption. Angora meat tastes rather like lamb; it is lean and high in iron, but low in saturated fats and ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Angora goats are well suited to agricultural enterprises and qualify as livestock units under the Single Farm Payment Scheme.